Friday, February 22, 2013

The Case for Love: Relationship Crash

Among countless analogies in the vast myriad of relationship books that I've read, a few stay with me. One of them—(and if you recognize the source, please refresh my memory)—likens relationships to a bank account. In this comparison, all the goodness and love shown to another person is like a deposit toward the relationship, while negative words and actions are a withdrawal. As I recall, the goal is to keep the account well in the black, never permitting the account balance to fall into a dangerous condition of being overdrawn.

Perhaps my years in banking and banking school give me a dim view of this concept. While I certainly appreciate the fact that positive needs to outweigh negative (in both banking and relationships), I also know that a checking account is technically called a DDA, or "demand deposit account." Unlike an investment certificate or bond with a maturity date, a bank account holds deposits for safekeeping, but must relinquish them immediately upon "demand."

If anything forebodes certain injury to a relationship, it is making a demand for that to which one feels entitled.

" 'So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest.' "
~ Matthew 25:27 (NKJV)

Perhaps relationship is better likened to an investment in business or stocks than a demand deposit account. Investment expects a return, but has no guarantee of it. Rather than arbitrarily deposit money, one must thoughtfully consider where money is placed, maintain diversity of investment, and watch closely for when a change in strategy is indicated. Money simply deposited in an account gives its owner an expectation to receive back only what's given, and perhaps some nominal interest. But with investment, the expectation is to receive a much greater return than the capital; the dream is to reap a windfall.

With investment, however, one also runs the risk of losing everything. Bankruptcy has a way of taking away even more than the capital. The stock market crash of 1929 precipitated The Great Depression. Relationship crash also tends to bring on great depression.

We spend years and decades and entire lifetimes pouring love and prayers, positive words and deeds, our very selves into close relationships. And we have every expectation of a good return—every dream of eternal harmony. Whether that relationship is marriage or parent-child, family or friendship, we each have special people in our lives who have received our thoughtful investment of time and energy, diversity in loving words and actions, and close watch through life's changes.

When we invest in relationships this way, we usually do reap a healthy return.

But sometimes, bankruptcy strikes. The relationship crashes, and we see everything lost. We may be able to pinpoint where we've been negligent, assuming our initial investment would cover it. Or we may perform a careful examination and remain stunned that our steady attention failed to overcome unavoidable mistakes by imperfect people. The signs of relationship crash may have been steadily growing, or a single disaster can wreak havoc.

However relationship crash comes, depression follows because of the perception that all is lost.

"Gather together the remaining broken pieces, in order that nothing might be lost."
~ John 6:12

As I've said before, Jesus is a capitalist. He speaks often of money, and clearly demonstrates that God will obtain a return on His many investments in us, one way or another. He allows nothing to be wasted, not even the broken pieces.

The broken pieces of our lives are sometimes related to losses of health and wealth. But relationship crash shatters us as nothing else, bringing on the notion that our investment has been a failure—maybe even the notion that we have been a failure.

"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal."
~ Matthew 6:19-20 (NKJV)

Relationships of this world and this time may prove temporal, despite our best efforts to take them into eternity with us.

But.

We are not investing in the temporal and the seen. We are investing in the eternal and the unseen, laying up treasure in Heaven. We remain unaware, for now, of what return will be paid on our investment—for us, for our children, for every seen and unseen witness to our testimony.

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
~ Hebrews 12:1 (NKJV)

The case for love will not be lost—cannot be lost. The case for love is God's case, proven by us through His power.

And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.
~ Galatians 6:9 (NKJV)

Comments are welcome (including respectful disagreement) and will receive a reply.
You may also contact author via Twitter – @anne4JC
or e-mail – use @gmail.com *after* buildingHisbody
Copyright 2013, Anne Lang Bundy, all rights reserved.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Case for Love: "Love is the Answer"

"Love is the Answer"—or so it's said. Does whatever Question, posed first, have relevance? Or is there truth in the hippie mantra? And is the Christian who says likewise being either na├»ve or overly simplistic?

Perhaps "whatever Question" is less important than how one defines love.

"Love" is a commonplace word in our world. "Love" is seen as humanity's true nature. "Love" conveys warm feelings toward those who do good to us, and those for whom we have natural affection (such as our children). We use "love" in connection with anything or anyone important to us—or simply pleasing to us—from food to someone we find attractive. "Love" is also a synonym for sex, even the most casual or torrid sex, for our world makes little distinction between sex as a marriage bond and sex as a call of nature.

But there is another love, decidedly uncommon, set apart from all natural instinct: God’s holy love.

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous, it does not brag, and it is not proud. Love is not rude, is not selfish, and does not get upset with others. Love does not count up wrongs that have been done. Love takes no pleasure in evil but rejoices over the truth. Love patiently accepts all things. It always trusts, always hopes, and always endures.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NCV)

This love is anything but our true nature. Our nature dictates self-gratification and self-preservation. From the moment of birth until the last struggle against death, our nature is not love but avoidance of injury, pain and discomfort to body and soul. The "love" defined by this world is willing to love only if it furthers the goal of self-preservation and self-gratification. Suicide—the willingness to destroy one's own life—is the result of pain avoidance overcoming even the instinct for self-preservation.

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life."
~ John 3:16 (NKJV)

The nature of holy God is to love regardless of Self-preservation or Self-gratification. God's Son Jesus did not commit suicide but rather laid down (John 15:13) His life. Rather than avoid suffering, Jesus embraced horrific pain and death in order to overcome both the self-destruction inherent to sin and humanity's instinct for sin.

"To be holy is to look like God. His beauty—His ultimate beauty—is the beauty of love and goodness."
~ from my last post, "Why Holiness is Beautiful"

Did the last post seem to argue for love and holiness being synonymous? Did it cross the line of biblical integrity?

Yes, love and holiness are distinct. Even so, I maintain that holiness cannot exist apart from the holy and wholly unnatural love of God. God is holy because He is wholly set apart from what humanity is by nature. To be a Christian is to be set apart to God as holy and to love with His wholly unnatural love. To the question of what holiness is, "Love is the answer" if it is the love of God.

"In the last analysis, it is our conception of death which decides our answers to all the questions that life puts to us."
~ Dag Hammarskjold

Whatever the question, the answer is never "love" as the world defines it.

To every question, and especially to the ultimate questions posed by death, God is the Answer, and "God is love" (1 John 4:8).

Comments are welcome (including respectful disagreement) and will receive a reply.
You may also contact author via Twitter – @anne4JC
or e-mail – use @gmail.com *after* buildingHisbody
Copyright 2013, Anne Lang Bundy, all rights reserved.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Why Holiness is Beautiful

Who would want to be as ugly as "holier than thou" people?

If God's holy and I'm not, why does the Bible say "be holy"?

Why be holy if it means being boring?

Holy simply means "set apart." But of all the ideas presented by the Bible, perhaps nothing is less understood than holiness. Holiness seems to be the domain of clergy, missionaries, and spiritual giants—or religious snobs. The word "holy" is more likely to evoke images of candle lit cathedrals, flowing robes, and vessels of gold than of beaches and boardrooms, shopping malls and construction zones.

Regardless of how we define "holy," both Old Testament (eight times) and New Testament (four times) contain an imperative from God to all of His people:

"And you shall be holy to Me, for I the LORD am holy, and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be Mine."
~ Leviticus 20:26 (NKJV)

God does not ask the impossible. He simply makes a logical distinction already evident throughout our culture.

You can easily discern which people in Wal-Mart are set apart as employees by their blue vests. Police officers are set apart by their uniform, badge and gun. And there's something about their manner that sets apart college instructors from the students, even when age and clothing aren't all that different.

Of all advice I've heard about success in the business world, one I consider very practical is this: wear attire which approximates the appearance of the boss, neither more dressy nor more casual.

And so God asks the same thing of people who are His—"look like Me." Too many Christians make the mistake of thinking that means we should all look alike.

"For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."
~ 1 Samuel 16:7 (NKJV)

God is love (1 John 4:8,16). Jesus said we would be known as His disciples—recognized as set apart to Him—by our love for one another (John 13:34-35).

… we should be holy and without blame before Him in love …
~ Ephesians 1:4 (NKJV)

May I therefore suggest that the most vital component of being set apart to God as His is to grow increasingly more loving with the selfless love of Jesus?

Asking "What would Jesus do?" might be a starting place for what it means to love as God loves. It is also not wise to put God in a box, lest He directs something completely unpredictable. Although Jesus twice fed a hungry crowd, His Word also says that people who won't work shouldn't eat (2 Thessalonians 3:10). Jesus often healed people, but sometimes withheld healing (Matthew 13:58, 15:23-24). The gentle and lowly Jesus (Matthew 11:29) occasionally used strong names (Matthew 12:34, Luke 10:3, John 8:44) and a whip of cords (John 2:15).

All ways, at all times, Jesus remained love. To look like Jesus is to look like selfless love, whether in business attire or T-shirt and jeans. To look like Jesus is to look like selfless love, at home, office, vacation, hospital, church, store. To look like Jesus is to look like selfless love, in the time to remain silent and the time to speak boldly.

To be holy is to be set apart to God, increasingly used by Him to fulfill His purposes rather than our own purposes, continually growing in reliance upon His divine strength rather than our human resolve.

"It's easy to be a holy man on top of a mountain."
~ Mountaintop monk, The Razor's Edge

One way to be holy on top of a mountain is to withdraw from people and situations that provoke us to unholiness. Holiness also occurs on spiritual mountaintops, when we experience profound blessing and easily pass it along.

God's people are also called to be holy when we're running late, the express lane line is long with full carts, and that blue vest associate is in no hurry. We are called to be holy when cut off, in traffic or in conversation. We are called to be holy with the people and situations that would cause the most reasonable people to lose their temper.

God's people are called to be holy in the deepest of dark valleys, where we lose hope of seeing the mountaintops we can hardly remember, because God assures us that He walks with us and is in us.

He has sent us a mighty Savior …
So we can serve God without fear,
In holiness and righteousness before Him
All the days of our life.
Luke 1:69,74-75 (NLT, NKJV)

Holiness is neither ugly nor boring. To be holy is to look like God. His beauty—His ultimate beauty—is the beauty of love and goodness.

: : :

Note: In follow up to this post, please see
The Case for Love: "Love is the Answer"

Comments are welcome (including respectful disagreement) and will receive a reply.
You may also contact author via Twitter – @anne4JC
or e-mail – use @gmail.com *after* buildingHisbody
Copyright 2013, Anne Lang Bundy, all rights reserved.